Coldest Sardinia yet turns up the heat on SWRT
The Subaru World Rally Team entry of Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot concluded a nail-biting second day on the island of Sardinia in sixth position overall after the intense battle between the front-runners continued to rage. Meanwhile team mates Petter Solberg and Phil Mills climbed back up through the field to round out the top ten after losing time with a puncture during the second stage of the day.

With five cars competing for the final step on the podium, the pace was electric from the outset. Atkinson and Prévot fought to retain fifth for the opening stage of the day before rescinding the position during the morning’s second and also the longest of the day, the infamous Monte Lerno. In the stage in which Atkinson notoriously performed the largest jump of his WRC career in 2005, the duo slid into the sixth position they held to the finish.

“Given the positions we held at the end of yesterday, today has been disappointing for us” said David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal. “We had taken some steps forward yesterday, and Petter was an encouraging third, but we seemed to face a new challenge of getting heat into the tyres in the cold conditions we faced today. Both drivers did a very good job under difficult circumstances but it is clear that we haven’t got everything working correctly in these temperatures.”

The fifth running of Rally Sardinia is the coldest edition of the event yet, an average of six degrees cooler than in previous years. The Impreza WRC2007 is remarkably light on its tyres; a virtue normally much sought after in the hotter rallies where tyre wear can be crippling.

In the slippery conditions seen on this event however it actually became difficult to generate sufficient heat in the hard compound Pirelli tyres to realise their full grip. The very nature of the island stages exacerbated the issue as Solberg and Atkinson could ill-afford to slide their Imprezas excessively through the narrow and rock-strewn routes.

“We’ve still been pushing hard today” said Chris Atkinson. “We knew the Fords would be quick so it’s no surprise to be sixth. I felt I drove well today, and that is all I can do. I drove the best I could and pushed as hard as I could, and I made no mistakes and we didn’t have any problems so that is good. We’re still in a good position, but we just didn’t have the pace to stay with the front guys.”

Telling a similar story, National Norwegian day was not to bring the joy Solberg had hoped for. He and Mills lost five minutes in the first running of Monte Lerno with a puncture and the pair slid to fourteenth overall before mounting something of a comeback to put both SWRT entries inside the top ten.

“It’s been a very, very hard day for us today” said Petter Solberg. “We tried but we just didn’t have the pace today. We started with a good third position from yesterday, and we knew today would be tough, but even without stopping to change the wheel in stage eight, we just couldn’t keep it.”

The crew will make changes to the Impreza WRC2007s for tomorrow’s restart to try and address the problem and enable Solberg and Atkinson to turn up the heat for the final day of competition.

Tomorrow’s route
The final day of this fifth WRC event in Sardinia takes crews through four new stages to the south of the service park, which whilst a change from previous years use a combination of familiar roads. The event’s finale is a 2.7 kilometre spectator stage that skirts the beach to the north of Olbia in the Costa Smeralda region. The five stages comprise a total competitive distance of just fewer than 80 kilometres.

Day 2 Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 2h59m21.5s
2. J-M Latvala/M Attila +29.4s
=. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +29.4s
4. G Galli/G Bernacchini +1m17.7s
5. D Sordo/M Marti +1m31.3s
6. C Atkinson/S Prevot +2m42.1s
7. H Solberg/C Menkerud +4m29.0s
8. U Aava/K Sikk +4m34.5s
9. P-G Andersson/J Andersson +5m45.9s
10. P Solberg/P Mills +7m29.2s

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